Listen Up

I thought she was calling me selfish, when in fact she was asking me to pass the shellfish. But I didn’t want to share. I love mussels!

Maybe she’s right.

People say I’m a bad listener, but I disagree. I hear everything I want to and no more. Work with me. Close your eyes and just listen. Right now. For just sixty seconds. Are you doing it yet? Good.

Welcome back. What did you hear? Background noise? Sure. But something stood out. It caught your attention and you remembered it and even possibly noted it.

Why? Why that sound?

Maybe it was louder than other sounds. Or maybe it was an odd sound that you had to strain to hear better. I’ll tell you what you heard. You heard what you were conditioned to hear. Human voices. Sharp or loud sounds. Something threatening perhaps.

That’s evolutionary. That’s what Darwin’s God wants you to notice. Just stay alert to anything that could harm your chances to reproduce, or any opportunity to expand those chances.

But what do you care? I know that I’m not here to fulfill Nature’s objectives. Mother Nature doesn’t care about me and the feeling is mutual. I don’t care about staying alive long enough to meet Her objectives. I just want to really live while I’m living.

Am I boring you? Then go away and listen to your MP3s. Go and let your life slip away in a dream state. Make babies and die. See if I care.

But if you’re staying with me, here’s the key point: I’ve trained myself to hear differently. I hear what I want to hear and really experience those sounds pleasurably. I listen to everything like it’s an evening of “music appreciation.”

The most annoying of sounds, the pneumatic drill, is an assault on the ears. Sometimes I avoid it, cross the street and stride away quickly. Nature warns you against loud, harsh sounds—something dangerous may be near. But, if you actually listen to it, without prejudice, it’s very interesting. It’s not one sound, but a combination. There’s a distinctive beat, too. Loud? Yeah, but no louder than some concerts you pay to attend.

And that’s the way it is with me and Sheila.

I listen to her throw away lines, her snide asides, her impatient put downs. And I enjoy them. Really. The words may be nasty and the tone harsh. But the rhythm, the emphasized consonants, the elongated vowels. Fascinating.

I’ll enjoy them until that very moment she passes an open window through which a safe is falling. She won’t hear a thing.